By the last week of this month, each major medium will have soaked you with its year-end summaries: those reflective, semi-philosophical glimpses back to 1997 that show us our mistakes, triumphs, and what we learned as a species. That year-end ritual is like one of the final scenes in The Wizard of Oz, when the Scarecrow asks Dorothy what she's learned. She gives an abstract of her experience, taps her heels together three times, then reawakens into a sepia-toned world. There, we get a chance to practice our lessons, make new mistakes, and repeat the process and the end of twelve months.
This time you're lucky. I'll be hitting you with the year-end-reflection stuff later in this column before the other media get their chances. Feel free to tap your heels three times before you get there.
First, some big leadership changes are in store for the Louisville Jazz Society. Todd Lowe recently resigned as society President, citing increased demands from his new position as Director of Research and Marketing at Hilliard Lyons. The LJS regretfully accepted his resignation, and rightfully so. According to the resignation announcement published in the November /December issue of the LJS Newsletter, Todd brought a business-like focus to the group. During his term, Todd expanded membership through marketing, helped the society get Kentucky Arts Council funding, and created the successful "First Monday" series, which has brought regional and national jazz acts into the city.
Acting LJS President and newsletter editor Jeanette Kays said "Todd brought a whole new dimension to the office of president that we don't want to lose. His marketing skills were invaluable. He's been a joy to work with. I really, really admire him."
While his new position will keep him bust, Todd won't completely give up his connections with the LJS. He says he will remain on the society's Board of Directors and help with the leadership transition. In the meantime, Jeanette and other society leaders have decided to solicit nominations from LJS members.
The society has evolved incredibly under Todd Lowe. And its dedication to jazz in this city is – and always has been – unsurpassed.
Let's wish them well.
Speaking of Jeanette Kays, her and Greg Walker's new CD Only Guitar, Only Voice, Only Love may be available by the end of the year. Some mixing work is yet to be done. Jeanette described it as intimate and low key, featuring classical guitar and voice.
Upcoming shows: Jimmy McGriff and Hank Crawford come to town for the "Midnite Ramble" series on Saturday, December 6 at 8:00 p.m. in the Bomhard Theatre at the Kentucky Center for the Arts.
The December entry for the Bank One Jazz Cabaret Series is Louisville's For U, on Sunday, December 14 at 6:00 p.m. in the Clark-Todd Recital Hall.
Call 584-7777 for ticket information on either show.
A Personal Reflection – (at this point you can either read on or click your heels together and say, "There's no place like the next page.") It has been one year since I first had my byline here in the LMN. "Cowboy Corner" columnist Mike Stout, a former co-worker, introduced me to Paul Moffett, who asked for a writing sample, liked it, sent me a CD, asked for a review and liked it enough to print it. In the space of that one year, I became a father, got divorced, and leaped into the unrestrained-yet-dangerous world of freelance writing. One of my jobs: the column you are now reading.
I didn't officially take over "Jazzin'" until April, but since last December I've had the chance to meet with some of Louisville's and the nation's finest jazz musicians. I've seen some spectacular performances. I've made some new friends. And lost some, too. And there are those I have yet to meet.
I've found that Louisville's jazz community is talented and tight – so tight that bands borrow from each other to cover gigs. You can also easily tick off the number of regular jazz venues on one hand: the Seelbach, Zephyr Cove, the Kentucky Center for the Arts, the Rudyard Kipling, Twice Told Coffee House, Clifton's Pizza, Rick's (regular and Square Piano), Bobby J's. Okay, you might need two hands. Maybe a foot, too.
Louisville does have its jazz connections to the rest of the nation: Don Braden, Lionel Hampton, the late Jimmy Raney, Jamey Aebersold, Jeff Sherman, the jazz faculty at U of L, and I anticipate the Ron Hayden Group and Splatch to be added to that list.
I can't say that the jazz community is growing. I can say, though, that it is dedicated to performance and preservation. There are folks who play their souls out each gig, and there are others stretching the envelope, like Jak Son Renfro and the Java Men.
I still have much to learn about the business side of music: promotion, booking, sales, the stuff that means major breakout or broken egos. I came to this job as a writer who likes jazz, who played it years ago in high school, who had enough knowledge of it to host a public radio jazz show in college. Right now, I can only sit somewhere with my white notepad, listen to somebody play, hear what they're telling me on-stage and off, and produce summaries, tidy and otherwise, in a monthly newspaper.
If I haven't gotten around to you yet, I hope to. Let me know where you are. And the next time you play, just look for the guy scribbling into his white notepad.
To close I could say something cheesy like, "Have a Jazzy Christmas and a Swingin' New Year." But instead I'll just say:
Live Jazz in Louisville: Tomorrow, the World!
P. S. Happy Holidays.